Solid start in eventing for GB
Nicola Wilson got Great Britain's bid for an eventing team medal off to a solid start at Greenwich Park on Saturday.
Wilson and Opposition Buzz, renowned as one of the world's leading cross-country combinations, held their own during the early stages in the dressage phase.
Their score of 51.70 penalties put them in fourth place after 10 starters, and Yorkshire-based Wilson was satisfied with her day's work in front of a bumper Greenwich Park crowd.
"I feel that we did the best we possibly could today," said Wilson, whose views were echoed by British team manager Yogi Breisner.
"The atmosphere was unreal. The crowd and the cheering was fantastic, and it is just the most beautiful setting.
"Being selected for the Games is obviously a dream come true, something I have dreamt of and worked for since my childhood days.
"But I have tried not to think about it too much, just stayed in my own little bubble."
Wilson said she was "very, very excited" about the cross-country test awaiting the riders on Monday afternoon.
"It's very hilly and twisting, as we expected, and I am looking forward to preparing him for the next stage of the event.
"My horse is very experienced and he knows what's happening next."
American rider Boyd Martin launched the competition in the 23,000-capacity main arena on Otis Barbotiere, beginning his country's quest for a fifth Olympic team gold medal.
Australia-born Martin, who switched nationality in 2009, is also among the contenders for an individual medal, although a score of 50.70 was perhaps below expectation.
Christopher Burton, an impressive winner at Aachen's World Equestrian Festival earlier this month, started an Australian challenge that had been blighted by pre-Games injuries.
Shane Rose and Taurus were the first Australian combination forced to drop out, then Rose's replacement Megan Jones saw Allofasudden go lame, which meant an SOS being sent to Dorset-based Sam Griffiths just two days ago.
Burton, riding HP Leilani, was awarded 46.30 for his test by the three-strong judging panel of Britain's Nick Burton, Australian Gillian Rolton and Denmark's Anne-Mette Binder, to take the early lead.
And there was a special moment for young British eventer Emily Llewellyn, who was invited to do a test ride before the main event on Pardon Me II.
"That was seriously cool," Llewellyn said. "It was an amazing opportunity for me, and the arena is incredible."
While the British contingent were satisfied with Wilson's efforts, German rider Peter Thomsen offered a withering assessment of his performance on Barny.
At one point of his test, the horse kicked out, and Thomsen said: "He was bothered badly by flies during the canter work, and this must have been why he did that.
"He has never behaved like that before. He is normally calm and safe and easy to ride. I am really disappointed."
Dirk Schrade, though, soon put Germany's show back on the road with a brilliant test aboard King Artus.
Schrade, fourth at the European Championships on home soil in Luhmuhlen last year, posted a score of 39.80 to take a commanding lead.
It put him almost six penalties ahead of second-placed Griffiths, who continued a fairytale week by rising to the challenge on Happy Times.
Griffiths grasped his unexpected chance at the Games with both hands, scoring 45.40 to lie just ahead of Burton at the lunch break.
Mary King, riding in her sixth Olympics for Britain, produced a masterful display of controlled riding under pressure.
Imperial Cavalier can easily be unsettled by large crowds, but King's audience responded to her magnificently when she rode into arena with a finger pressed to her lips urging silence.
And the horse responded magnificently as 51-year-old King guided him through a dressage test that earned her 40.90 penalties and second place.
"The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic," King said.
"I am not usually tearful, but coming into the arena with the crowd so behind me and being so good at keeping quiet when I came in was amazing.
"I knew if they all cheered and roared, Imperial Cavalier would have exploded and I would have found it hard to ride the test.
"Although they were really behind me, they were also ever so well behaved and kept nice and quiet until the end.
"He is a horse with tremendous enthusiasm and energy. I was really pleased.
"We made a couple of errors, especially that last flying change when I lost him and he ran a bit to the right which made the change late, but most of his work was really pleasing.
"At four-star level, that would be close to his best dressage work. "
With 11 combinations left to go on day one, King held second spot behind Schrade, while Sweden's Ludvig Svennerstal moved third on Shamwari.
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